What are the most common Japanese small talk phrases?
Well, good news! They’re not too far from English small talk.
In this quick Japanese guide, you’ll learn 20+ useful Japanese small talk phrases. Phrases like “nice weather,” “long time no see,” and much much more.
Ready? Let’s go.
- Ogenki desuka?
- How are you?
One of the most common English small talk phrases is “How are you?”. In Japanese it’s a bit more complicated to use this phrase. Ogenki desuka? means “how are you?” but it should only be said after you haven’t seen the other person for a long time. This phrase shouldn’t be used if you’re talking to a stranger.
- Ii tenki desune.
- Nice weather, isn’t it?
A fool-proof comment to start a conversation is to talk about the weather. If it’s beautiful outside and you want to talk with someone, you could try out this phrase. You can also learn some more Japanese weather words to talk in more detail.
As with all other countries and people, the Japanese too love talking about weather. So, this is one of the best Japanese small talk phrases to know
- Saikin mainichi ame desune.
- It’s been rainy every day lately.
Commenting on weather patterns is another good phrase for small talk. If you notice that it’s been raining every day you could use this phrase.
- Kouji ga urusai desune.
- The construction is loud, isn’t it?
This phrase works especially well if you want to use small talk with your neighbor or coworker. A common annoyance can be the loud construction that’s happening outside.
- Petto no namae wa nandesuka?
- What’s the name of your pet?
If you’re curious about your neighbor’s pet that you see every morning, you can try asking this question. This phrase will let you chat with your neighbor, while getting to know their pets.
- Kawaii ______desune.
- Your ______ is cute.
If you notice someone with a pet or a child, you can use this phrase to comment on them. Fill the blank with the word for pet, child, cat, dog, or anything else that you find cute. This can also lead to further conversation about the child or pet.
- Ohisashiburi desu.
- Long time no see
When you bump into someone you haven’t seen in a while, you can say this phrase. This is a good way to start a conversation. After saying ohisashiburi, you could ask about what they’ve been up to.
This is also a common Japanese greeting and way to say hello.
8) 最近 (仕事/学校) はどうですか？
- Saikin shigoto/gakkou wa dou desuka?
- How is your work/school going?
Asking about work or school can be a great conversation starter. You could try out this small talk phrase to see what’s been going on with their life.
- _____ni yoroshiku otsutae kudasai.
- Please tell _____I said hi.
Another great small talk phrase is asking the person to say “hi” to someone else in their family. You can add the name of the person in the blank. For example, if you bump into your neighbor’s child, you could ask them to tell your neighbor “hi”.
- Ryokou wa dou deshita ka?
- How was your trip?
If you know your acquaintance recently went on a trip, you could try using this phrase. This can open up the conversation and you might also gain some ideas on travel recommendations.
- Kyuuka wa dou deshita ka?
- How was your break?
This could be a useful phrase in school or at the workplace. After the holidays, this could be a nice way to chat with your co-workers or peers. Keep in mind that if you go on a holiday, it’s a custom to bring back some kind of local food souvenirs for your co-workers.
- Samuku natte kimashita ne.
- It’s getting colder, isn’t it?
During the transition into winter, you might want to comment about this change to your neighbors and colleagues. There is not too much heating in Japanese buildings, so everyone will be starting to feel the cold setting in.
- Atsuku natte kimashita ne.
- It’s getting hot, isn’t it?
Summers in Japan can get very hot. Many people will be dreading the summer heat and this could be a topic that everyone could relate to. You could share and talk about how you can cope with the summer.
- Yes (I agree)
If someone makes a comment about the weather or surroundings, you could reply with a soudesune. This is a phrase that’s used to show that you’re listening to what the other person is saying. Essentially saying that you agree in Japanese.
- Dochira kara kimashitaka?
- Where are you from?
This is how you say “what’s your nationality” or “where are you from” in Japanese.
For small talk with someone you don’t know too well, a great place to start is to ask them where they are from. This can let you know more background about the other person and you can ask deeper about the place they come from.
- Shumi wa nan desu ka?
- What’s your hobby?
Talking about hobbies can also be a nice way to start a conversation. If you have similar hobbies you can discuss more in-depth things about them.
- Taihen deshita ne.
- That must have been tough.
If someone is telling you something bad that was happening to them, you could reply with this phrase. It shows understanding and that you feel for them.
- Kono ato no yotei wa?
- What’s your plans later?
As you’re making conversation, you might want to try and make plans with the person. A good way to know if they’re busy is by asking them what their plans are later in the day.
- Onamae wa nan desu ka?
- What’s your name?
Although it’s not so common to talk with strangers in Japan, if you want to strike up a conversation you could try asking their name. This is also useful if you’ve been talking to a stranger for a while and want to know their name.
If you want be able to answer this question, then you’ll need to learn how to introduce yourself in Japanese.
- How do you feel?
- Kibun wa dou desu ka?
Kibun means mood or feeling. So this question literally asks how your mood or feelings are. This is more about health and well-being (physical or emotional), rather than just asking “how are things?”
Now, you know the most useful Japanese small talk phrases.
If you want to remember these phrases, print out this page.
If you have a favorite Japanese phrase, leave a comment.
If you want to know how to say some other phrase, leave a comment.
I read ’em all.
– The Main Lingua Junkie